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Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

Buying a car entirely in Spanish

With the condo deal now awaiting closing we start to debate what to do with the car.  Renting is expensive – even after we found a local place that charges about half what the cars near the airport available through Expedia charge.  We are paying $750 per month.  Won’t take long before it would have made sense to purchase.

So we start researching what it takes to own a car down here.  Lots of conflicting information about whether as a foreigner we can register a car in our name.  Turns out it varies state to state.  In Nayarit, where our condo is located, its allowed.  But we need to prove our address.  The way this is typically done is to show a utility bill with the service address on it in your name, plus your US passport.  Problem is that we haven’t closed on the condo so we don’t have any utility bills in our name.  The Agent helping us with the car purchase said we could do it if we had the utility bill showing the current owner’s name, a copy of the current owner’s passport, and our passport.

With some reluctance we asked the seller for their passport.  Seemed crazy to us that anyone would hand out copies of their ID to strangers, but apparently that’s just how things roll here.  After having secured all the necessary paperwork to register a car, now we just have to find one we liked.

Dave found one at a used car dealer.  Nice red Hyundai.

So we head down to the dealer for a test drive and a once over.  As Dave is a “car guy” we had no need for a mechanic to check it out.  After Dave gives it the thumbs up, we go into the office to sign and pay for the car.  The sales guy speaks not a word of English.  So, how good is our Spanish?  Apparently good enough to buy a car.  Well, that plus a little help from google translate.

Once the deal was finalized, we contacted the agent who was going to help us get it registered in our name.  We paid $350 for his concierge services.  The process is a bit of a hassle.  You have to:

  1. Have the paperwork inspected to ensure that you have all the necessary signatures to transfer ownership.  The biggest issue here is that you need to make sure that the original bill of sale from the dealer – when the car was new – is in order.  Every owner has to sign the back of the original bill of sale – showing the car’s entire ownership history.  Without this you can’t get title to the car.
  2. A few days later, once the paperwork has been verified, you then have to do a VIN inspection.  You take the car to the vehicle registration office where they validate the VIN number of the vehicle, and at this point you have to turn over your plates while they do all the title registration.  During this time you shouldn’t drive the car as – in theory – the cops can give you a ticket.
  3. Once the plates are ready, then you pick them up and are good to go.  Problem is that this took over a week.  So meanwhile we couldn’t run errands on the far side of town where we know there are lots of cops.  We drove around a bit in the more sparsely populated areas but stayed away from the cities.  This was kind of a pain.

In the end we got full title, new plates and all is well.

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